Nigeria

Paragon Edge brings together leading British niche immigration law firm Paragon Law and Inside Edge a Nigerian based market entry and education specialist.

The partnership’s foundations are a strong, ethical and knowledgeable team comprising of:

Thalej Vasishta, MD, Paragon Law; and

Peter Stephenson, OBE, ex-First Secretary, British High Commission, Nigeria; and

Lebari Ukpong, MD, Inside Edge and ex-Trade Development Manager, British Deputy High Commission, Nigeria.

Peter Stephenson said, “Obtaining a UK visa is not easy and most Nigerian applicants fail because of poor advice and documentation”.

Paragon Law has won multiple accolades for both its legal services and business processes. The firm is ranked in the top tier by the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners Directory to the legal profession, with the latter having described Paragon Law as an immigration law powerhouse, best known for handling complex and high profile cases”.

Thalej Vasishta said, “Once we have given our client an assessment of the merits in making the visa application, the secret of success is then in the preparation of the supporting documents, how this evidence is presented and explained to the visa officers”.

Paragon Edge will provide advice on all areas of UK immigration law be it whether a client wants to invest, trade, set up business, study, visit or join family members in the UK.

Inside Edge offices in Lagos will be the point of contact for Nigerian based clients. The UK team will set the case strategy and will be supported by the Lagos office to prepare documents and coordinate effective communication between the client and Paragon Edge.

Lebari Ukpong said, We are all excited about this partnership particularly as the knowledge and know-how with which we will serve our clients is unparalleled in Nigeria. This service is further enhanced by the fact that our clients will continue to be cared for once they are in the UK through Paragon Law”.

If you require further information or wish to instruct Paragon Edge please get in touch with your Paragon Edge contact in the usual way. Alternatively, email info@inside-edgeconsulting.com.

Contacts

Inside Edge Ltd

  • Suite D26, Dolphin Plaza, Corporation Drive, Dolphin Estate, Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria
  • Tel: +234 8035352685 / +234 1 4623411 ext 500
  • E: info@inside-edgeconsulting.com

Paragon Law

“Attracting and retaining the best staff is important to the success of all businesses regardless of size. One of the ways to do this is to ensure that all staff are encouraged to develop new skills through training. However how does the business assure itself  that there is a return on investment? Read this report from a Talent Forum in which Thalej Vasishta and other business leaders participated:”

 

Paragon Law in Nottingham has secured the national Law Society’s law management quality mark, Lexcel.

Lexcel is developed specifically for the legal profession.  It is an optional, recognised accreditation scheme for law firms and in-house legal departments which gives assurance that a practice meets high client care and business management standards.

To gain and retain Lexcel accreditation, practice must undergo a rigorous intial then annual application and assessment process.  This includes conducting background checks and an on-site visit from an experienced, trained Lexcel assessor.

Marcus Worthington, Operations Director, said: “While we are proud to have secured Lexcel, it is our clients and staff who are the main beneficiaries.  They can be assured that the way we manage the practice has their interests at heart and runs efficiently.  There is a lot of choice in the legal services market, but being Lexcel accredited demonstrates our commitment to client care and best practice”.

Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, President of the Law Society of England and Wales, said: Gaining and maintaining Lexcel is no mean feat.  There are many facets of being a Lexcel accredited law firm, including client care.  A commitment to customer service in today’s evermore competitive legal services market is vital.

“By undergoing the rigorous Lexcel application and assessment process practices can show the positive steps they are taking to help clients in the increasingly diverse, complicated legal services market.

The scheme is a beacon of quality to clients and potential clients alike”.

Paragon Law joins more than 1200 other legal practices in England & Wales with Lexcel accreditation.  The practice management accolade has also gone international, with firms in Scotland, the Middle East, Poland and the Republic of Ireland having gained accreditation.

For more information about the Lexcel quality mark, please contact the Law Society Press office on: +44 (0)20 7316 5624 or email: press.office@lawsociety.org.uk

From 6 April this year the UK government’s new Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) will be legally effective.  The SEIS regime offers one of the most significant and attractive tax relief schemes in the UK code and is designed to incentivise the flow of capital to promising early stage companies.

As a digital riptide continues to disrupt traditional business models at an ever greater rate, for savvy investors these SEIS tax breaks offer an incredible opportunity to back next generation web-based businesses which can quickly develop a global brand based on clever use of ever cheaper internet technologies.

Scheme highlights
An individual making a SEIS investment will benefit from income tax relief of 50% of the amount invested (up to a maximum of £100,000 per tax year) regardless of the rate at which the individual is taxed, exemption from capital gains tax on any proceeds of sale of the SEIS investment and also  exemption from capital gains tax on the proceeds of sale of other capital assets during the tax year 2012/2013 if and to the extent those gains are reinvested in a SEIS qualifying company.  These factors go some way to significantly de-risking the investment.

Notably, a company that first raises fund through SEIS will still be able to go on and take advantage of investment raised under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) or from a Venture Capital Trust (VCT), albeit not until the company has spent at least 75% of the SEIS monies raised.

Limitations
The key limitations of an SEIS investment are that there is a limit of £150,000 that a company can raise, it can’t have already raised funding via the EIS or VCT regimes and the SEIS funds must be used in a qualifying business activity within three years of the investment.

Also, the shares must be issued within two years of incorporation of the company for SEIS relief to apply, the company must have a UK permanent establishment, the investor can’t be an employee of the company (although they can be a director), the company must have fewer than 25 full time employees and the investor can’t hold more than 30% of the company’s ordinary share capital.

Non UK residents
For individuals who are non UK residents (or who don’t qualify for SEIS), a trust agreement can be put in place whereby an eligible UK resident can invest and hold the legal title to the SEIS shares on behalf of the foreign investor who has a beneficial interest and thereby receives all the benefits of his investment and the SEIS tax reliefs.

About the author
Jonathan is an experienced transactional lawyer, with a keen focus on digital media, who is skilled at structuring and negotiating small equity investment deals in startup companies.

Jonathan writes a popular blog on social media, business and legal issues and is happy to connect on LinkedIn and Twitter.  Jonathan is employed by Bargate Murray, an award winning streamlined and agile international law firm, located near London’s burgeoning Tech City.  Bargate Murray’s team know both the area’s main deal makers and also a number of high growth technology start-ups open to investment.

Following this weeks budget the UK has the best corporation tax in the European Union. With the incentives below, this makes the UK a good place for companies seeking to set up foreign operations.

The Chancellor’s key business announcements in his 2012 budget included the following:

  • Corporation tax cut to 24% from April 2012. By 2014 it will fall to 22%.
  • Office for Budget Responsibility forecast of one million more jobs in the economy over five years.
  • Low interest rates to small businesses via the National Loan Guarantee Scheme and expansion of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee.
  • Enhanced capital allowances for businesses setting up in new Scottish enterprise zones in Dundee, Irvine and Nigg. A Welsh enterprise zone is to be created in Deeside.
  • A new £370 million Development Fund for London to attract new business and jobs.
  • A Consultation next month on simplifying the tax system for small firms with a turnover of up to £377,000.
  • Government support for £3150 million of tax increment financing to help councils promote development and an extra £3270 million for the Growing Places Fund.
  • Review on how Government can work better with the private sector on growing the economy to be conducted by Michael Heseltine
  • New “above the line” research and development tax credit to be introduced next year.
  • Publication of the National Planning Policy Framework in an overhaul of planning regulation.
  • Tax relief for the video games, animation and high-end television production sectors.
  • Government considering Enterprise Loans for young people to start their own business.
  • Relaxation of Sunday trading laws on eight Sundays during the Olympics and Paralympics, starting July 22.
  • No further changes to fuel duty and vehicle excise duty frozen for road hauliers.
  • New Machine Games Duty for the gambling industry with a standard rate of 20% and a lower rate for low-prize machines of 5% of net takings.
  • New gambling tax regime that will impose tax at the place of consumption, to discourage online gambling moving offshore.
  • The Chancellor concluded that, “This country borrowed its way out of trouble. Now we’re going to earn our way out.”

To see how the Paragon Group can assist you in setting up business in the UK, please click here

Nigeria is the most populated country on the African continent and is seen as a regional power.  With a high potential for economic growth , Nigeria is undergoing a lot of economic changes and and development.  Nigeria has been inhabited since 9000 BCE though the modern state only emerged in 1914.  During the time of colonialism the British united several regions, which included independent tribes and cultures. This unification created a melting pot of cultures, religions, languages and ethnicities, which has led to a lot of turbulence ever since.  Today, Nigeria is a diverse nation, where more than 520 languages are spoken. According to Kwintessential, more than 250 ethnic groups live there. A country rich in oil, Nigeria has experienced rapid economic growth since the inception of its new constitution in 1999. Though the people of Nigeria still suffer from a low literacy rate, poor overall heath, short life expectancy and intermittent violence, the country continues to make economic progress

Meetings

Personal relationships are important to Nigerians, and they will want to establish rapport with you before discussing business. Though informal by nature, your Nigerian hosts will conduct the first few meetings in a formal manner. Subsequent meetings will be more casual. When making a presentation, speak firmly and with conviction. Avoid exaggeration, as Nigerians are suspicious of this behaviour. If traveling as a team, make sure all members understand what’s being proposed. Your hosts will be leery of behaviour that indicates that your team members are not equally prepared or communicative. Send an outline of your presentation before your arrival. Your clients will appreciate being able to follow it point by point and will come prepared to ask questions.

Communication

Most Nigerian business people speak English when working with foreigners. However, there are so many dialects and so much lingo has permeated into Nigerian English that it may be a good idea to have a translator present. Do not rush introductions; your Nigerian hosts will take their time getting to know you. After a firm handshake, inquire about the person’s well-being and family. Use an individual’s title when introducing him. When receiving a business card, study it carefully before placing it in a business card case; never shove it in your pocket. This shows respect for your client. Nigerians often use proverbs or traditional folk tales to get a point across. Communication may be circuitous and lengthy before culminating with the main opinion or idea. Body language and facial expression are studied carefully; maintain a demeanor that communicates your feelings and thoughts.

Do’s and Don’ts

DO remember, that Nigeria has a long history of colonial and military suppression. This effects on Nigerian business culture and makes it conservative. Be formal, punctual and dress smartly.

DO keep in mind, that Nigeria is a multi-religious and multi cultural country. Always find out which religion or culture the people you are working with belong to.

DO keep in mind, that even though officially illegal, favouritism and nepotism is still a common practice in Nigeria.

DON’T hold eye-contact while talking to somebody for too long as this might be misinterpreted as a threat. Instead try to keep your eyes at forehead or shoulder level.

DON’T confront your Nigerian co-workers in public when you have an issue with them. Do so directly and openly, but in a private setting so as to not undermine their credibility.

DON’T be irritated when Nigerians insist on being addressed with all their titles. People are quite class conscious which relates back to the history of suppression during slavery and colonials

 

For more information please click here

Article published in Nottingham Evening Post August 2nd 2011:

Monday: The excitement of a foreign business trip to Nigeria and a 7am flight from Heathrow means that I do not sleep but instead set off down the M1 at 3am – thinking that the motorway would be clear. I am surprised at the number of lorries on the motorway which certainly is not indicative of a UK recession.

I arrive at Terminal One at 5.30am and an hour later I am on the plane ready to fly to Frankfurt from where I am connecting.

I arrive in Frankfurt an hour later where I am to meet initially with the client on whose behalf I am travelling to Nigeria. He is one of Nigeria’s most successful entrepreneurs with business interests ranging from oil and gas, petrochemicals, automobiles and civil aviation to name a few. As I am not meeting him until late morning, he has kindly booked a room for me in a hotel allowing me to take a couple of hours’ much needed sleep, to freshen up and to be able to change into a suit.

We talk for approximately 45 minutes when I brief him of my plans for this trip and some 45 minutes later I am on the connecting flight to Nigeria (all nicely timed for me by the concierge service at Frankfurt airport) and the six-hour flight to the capital, Abuja, gives me enough time to enjoy a good lunch, watch “The Fighter” which is an excellent movie looking at the early years of the boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and get a couple of hours’ much needed sleep.

Tuesday:Having caught up on the rest of my sleep, I wake up on Tuesday and as always the Hilton Hotel in Abuja is buzzing as if one might be in the United Nations. This doesn’t surprise me as GDP growth in Nigeria is currently nine per cent and rising. The country has the second largest gas reserves and a population of 140m (and growing) of which 50 per cent are under the age of 18.

A recent Goldman Sachs report predicts that Nigeria will be the 20th largest economy by 2025.

Over breakfast I am met by one of my client’s senior managers who has now become a good friend after my previous five trips to Nigeria. We catch up on our respective families and then drive over to the offices where I meet with the senior employee who I am assisting with an important business visa application for India. Most of the preparation has already been carried out by me back at the office so it is just a case of going through the application documents and adding some original documents to the bundle.

All is in order and ready to be filed tomorrow.

We drive over to Chopsticks Chinese Restaurant, renowned as being one of the best in Abuja and while the location is beautiful, I now struggle with Chinese food anywhere in the world having eaten at some of the best Chinese restaurants in Shanghai.

The rest of the day into late evening, I relax at the hotel pool bar with two friends from previous trips, an American commercial airline pilot who is now employed by Julius Berger, a German construction company, flying their senior directors around Nigeria, and also a Lebanese artist who has been in Nigeria more than 20 years painting African wildlife.

Wednesday: After breakfast I make sure that I go to the hotel gym as over the previous four weeks I have started a fitness routine with a personal trainer at Virgin Active and want to make sure that I do not lose the momentum that I have gained.

I receive confirmation that the visa application has been submitted and will be fast tracked with a result known by Friday.

I am happy to note that peace has been reached in the south of Nigeria, primarily because of the amnesty that has been negotiated by the current President of Nigeria, part of which is a deal to ensure that the indigenous population of the south are trained in skilled and semi-skilled occupations so that they can benefit from the wealth that has been created by the oil sector in the Delta region.

The Nigerian Government are keen to send up to 25,000 people from this region to the likes of China, India, UK and Germany to be trained in NVQ level courses such as welding, hairdressing, construction etc.

A meeting is therefore arranged for me with the people who are responsible in Government for this project to find out more about opportunities for Nottingham institutions to benefit from providing training and to let them know about Paragon Law’s visa services.

A positive meeting and a business plan is now required.

In the evening I am taken to Abacha Barracks, named after the former Nigerian military leader and politician where there is a large beer garden run by the wives of soldiers and only fresh grilled fish served. A great evening of food, drink and African music.

Thursday: On Thursday morning I am introduced to a young and up-and-coming entrepreneur in Nigeria with a strong interest in both the education and health sector. He is currently in the process of setting up Nigeria’s first call centre. Our focus is to discuss Paragon Law’s visa services for international students looking to study at educational institutions in the UK and how to encourage some of the best talented students to choose the UK as a place to study on behalf of the universities and colleges that we act for in the UK. My friend Bob Betts, MD at Smith of Derby, also asked me to test the waters for the interest in their clocks in the Nigerian market. We discuss this opportunity and a good deal of interest is shown in the Smith of Derby products.

Friday: In the morning I interview our first prospective employee in Nigeria. He is the son of a good friend of mine, a lawyer by background and with good commercial acumen. He is hired.

In the afternoon I catch up on my e-mails and correspond with some of my clients back in the UK who are recruiting foreign nationals into their business.

In the evening I meet with Peter Stevenson, a native of Nottingham and up until recently, the Director of Trade at the British Consulate in Nigeria. He now works for Osprey Investments and after “chewing the fat” over dinner, we go over to the Elephant Bar to relax and enjoy a very good band who can sing everything from Bob Marley through to the Rolling Stones.

Saturday: After the previous night, I have no intention of waking up early, although once I do it is straight to the gym to keep up with my fitness routine. I then enjoy watching the ladies’ tennis final at the pool bar over lunch.

In the afternoon I lock myself away in my hotel room to begin to draft the text for Paragon Law’s new website and the two new divisions that we are introducing to the business.

In the evening I meet with one of my client’s senior managers who I have previously met in Shanghai. He takes me to Wakki’s, an Indian restaurant (which is not too bad at all) and where I learn the amusing experiences of a Chinese man in Nigeria.

Sunday: A relaxed morning followed by the men’s Wimbledon final over lunch at the pool. In the afternoon I am invited for tea at a local café by the employee who is travelling to India to thank me for the work in respect of his visa application.

In the evening I rest and prepare for my return flight tomorrow via Frankfurt where I will be meeting with my client and then on to London.

I look forward to getting back to see family and friends.

 

Buzzing with visitors:   Abuja, Nigeria.

                                          Buzzing with visitors: Abuja, Nigeria.

 

However, infrastructure deficits, a lamentable security situation and inclement policies have combined to deter overseas companies from venturing into Africa’s second largest economy. The installation of a democratically elected government in 1999 paved the way for radical reforms calculated to reverse this trend and boost both domestic and international investment in the country. For the business savvy though, Nigeria is a country teeming with business opportunity and potential.

According to TradeInvest Nigeria, a non-government agency that provides access to business opportunities in the country, the extent of its trade potential is unparalleled in the entire African continent. Lucrative investment opportunities exist across multiple sectors, including healthcare, tourism and leisure, agricultural and agro-processing, banking and infrastructure. The Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Decree of 1995 allows foreign companies unrestricted ownership of businesses except in the petroleum sector, where investment is limited to production-sharing or joint-venture arrangements.

The range of prospects that Nigeria holds out for global investors is significant, especially considering the nation’s long-term goals of accelerated economic development and inclusive growth.

Health Care

One of the most profitable business opportunities Nigeria offers is in the healthcare services industry. TradeInvest Nigeria especially highlights the private-sector investment potential in secondary and tertiary healthcare services involving research, capacity building, health management and information technology, all of which are currently lacking. The industry offers the added benefit of serving a social cause, which is significantly relevant in a country with deplorable human development indices. In this context, Nigeria’s economic capital Lagos, a city of 17 million people, is a veritable gold mine of unexplored dimensions.

For the business savvy, Lagos is as close to a dream investment destination as any in the continent. Home to some of Nigeria’s richest and strategically located on the coast, it is serviced by a large seaport and international airport that offer easy access to the entire West African region. The Lagos state government is well aware of the city’s business potential and offers investors attractive trade incentives and tax exemptions. Relative political stability over the last decade and progressive policies have resulted in a boom for private enterprises in Lagos, most of which operate outside the ambit of government regulation and as part of the informal economy. Together with the fact that Nigeria is home to 148 million people, according to revised World Bank estimates for 2009, the scope for profitable foreign investment in Lagos and elsewhere across the country are immense.

Information Technology Opportunities

One of Nigeria principal infrastructure lacking is in the field of communications and information technology, which contributes in large part to its underachieved economic potential. While the poor telecommunications network is a serious bar to business expansion and proliferation for local and foreign businesses alike, it is also a high-growth sector for potential investment by global players. A case in point is VOIX Networks Limited, a Nigerian IT and communications technology products and services provider that is looking to expand with the help of overseas investors.

The company’s mission of creating a more connected Nigeria has translated to a wide variety of products and services, including prepaid calling cards, wireless internet and cellular telephony. Despite the large-scale success of its operations, VOIX has managed to achieve only a fraction of its full potential in the absence of private investment to bankroll its expansion plans. Considering Nigeria’s ambitious plans to generate sustainable economic growth through industry-wide development, telecommunications comprise a potential boom sector for private investment with uncharted growth potential.

Solar Power

Nigeria’s most fundamental infrastructure deficit is in the field of power generation. Earlier this year, the government announced it is looking to attract $100 billion in investments for the power sector over the next five years1. Power supply is erratic and insufficient in most areas across rural and urban Nigeria, forcing businesses to operate on generators and face security concerns during frequent outages. The Lagos state government is once against at the forefront of efforts to rope in overseas investment in solar-power generation by announcing attractive terms of operation. Because of its tropical climate and equatorial location, Nigeria has tremendous potential not only to meet but overshoot its current electricity requirements through solar power generation.

For a country that has historically depended almost exclusively on non-renewable resources for revenue, this marks a substantial shift in attitude. Nigeria’s hot climate and wide plains make it the perfect location to achieve massive solar power generation. The added benefit comes by way of employment generation for hundreds of skilled and unskilled workers required for the construction and maintenance of such power plants. There is little doubt that solar power, potentially, is Nigeria’s sunshine sector.

Others

From fertilisers to agricultural equipment leasing services, steel production to catfish farming, chemical supplies to waste recycling – Nigeria holds within its borders a virtual cornucopia of investment opportunities for global players. The country’s tumultuous history and record of outdated policies are slowly but certainly being overcome in the spirit of economic reforms and deregulation. There are still clear and present dangers that thwart substantial foreign investment from landing on its shores, the most prominent emerging out of militancy and terrorism in the Niger Delta region and civilian unrest elsewhere. Trade barriers, an investor-unfriendly tax regime and large-scale bureaucratic and political corruption still present massive challenges to any sustained effort for inclusive growth. Abuja’s ambitious 2020 plans, initiated by former president O Obsanjo to take the nation to the top twenty world economies by that year, are contingent on acquiring massive private sector investment.

The fate of Nigeria’s economic and human development goals rests primarily on its ability to create an environment that sustains foreign investment in diverse sectors. The real test of savvy, from this point of view, applies as much to the Nigerian regime as it does to the investors it desperately seeks to attract.

By Peter Osalor FCCA, CTA Partner Peter Osalor and Co Chartered Certified Accountants and President Successinyourbusiness.com